Why do people read news, why do they pay for it?

Courtesy of NS Newsflash on Flickr.
Courtesy of NS Newsflash on Flickr.

Both of those headline link-bait questions and more answered (or at least addressed) in a below roundup of somewhat recent academic research. I am not including links as most of these are behind paywalls. If you have access, the citation is below the publisher-provided abstract in each case:

Focusing on the Reader: Engagement Trumps Satisfaction.

Satisfaction is commonly monitored by news organizations because it is an antecedent to readership. In fact, countless studies have shown the satisfaction-readership relationship to be true. Still, an essential question remains: Is satisfaction the only, or even the critical, thing to focus on with readership? This research indicates that the answer is no. Two other related constructs, reader experiences and engagement, affect reader behavior even more than does satisfaction. The discussion provides examples of how to increase engagement and calls for experimental research to understand how news organizations can positively affect engagement and thereby readership.

Mersey, Rachel Davis, Malthouse, Edward C., & Calder, Bobby J. (2012). Focusing on the Reader: Engagement Trumps Satisfaction. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 89(4), 695-709. doi: 10.1177/1077699012455391

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Do Satisfied Customers Really Pay More? A Study of the Relationship Between Customer Satisfaction and Willingness to Pay

Two experimental studies (a lab experiment and a study involving a real usage experience over time) reveal the existence of a strong, positive impact of customer satisfaction on willingness to pay, and they provide support for a nonlinear, functional structure based on disappointment theory (i.e., an inverse S-shaped form). In addition, the second study examines dynamic aspects of the relationship and provides evidence for the stronger impact of cumulative satisfaction rather than of transaction-specific satisfaction on willingness to pay.

Homburg, Christian, Koschate, Nicole, & Hoyer, Wayne D. (2005). Do Satisfied Customers Really Pay More? A Study of the Relationship Between Customer Satisfaction and Willingness to Pay. Journal of Marketing, 69(2), 84-96.

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News Audiences Revisited: Theorizing the Link Between Audience Motivations and News Consumption

With a plethora of news outlets today, audiences have more choices than ever. Yet, academic and professional understanding of news audiences from a uses and gratifications perspective remains limited. Using a national survey (N = 1143), this study uncovers distinct news consumption patterns across 4 types of motivations, and predicts media uses across 30 sources with noticeably higher explanatory power as compared to previous uses and gratifications studies, answering the question: Who is using what type of news, and why?

Lee, Angela M. (2013). News Audiences Revisited: Theorizing the Link Between Audience Motivations and News Consumption. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 57(3), 300-317. doi: 10.1080/08838151.2013.816712

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News-seekers and Avoiders: Exploring Patterns of Total News Consumption Across Media and the Relationship to Civic Participation

This study examines patterns of news consumption across multiple media platforms and relates them to civic participation. Analyzing a national sample of close to 25,000 respondents, nearly half the adult population in America is classified as news ‘Avoiders,’ and the other half as ‘News-seekers.’ Testing the relationship between civic participation and news consumption for each of 6 media platforms individually, and to an overall index combining those sources into 1 measure, the results show a positive relationship with civic participation, but the influence of Total News Consumption on civic participation is greater for Avoiders than for News-seekers.

Ksiazek, Thomas B., Malthouse, Edward C., & Webster, James G. (2010). News-seekers and Avoiders: Exploring Patterns of Total News Consumption Across Media and the Relationship to Civic Participation. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 54(4), 551-568. doi: 10.1080/08838151.2010.519808

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Young Adults’ Reasons Behind Avoidances of Daily Print Newspaper And Their Ideas For Change

Focus groups in three cities were conducted with young adults (ages 18-29) to understand why they, don’t read daily print newspapers. The study examined news media avoidances, like “inconvenience” and “lack of time,” to uncover underlying meanings. Results showed prominent nonuse reasons have dimensions. Participants also suggested ways newspapers could improve. Participants were studied as two age groups, 18-24 and 25-29. Small group differences did emerge. The older group wanted less negative news, while the younger group justified it; the younger age group was more skeptical of the news and mentioned needing greater effort to understand it.

Zerba, Amy. (2011). Young Adults’ Reasons Behind Avoidances of Daily Print Newspaper And Their Ideas For Change. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 88(3), 597-614.

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Exploring News Apps and Location-Based Services on the Smartphone

This study investigates how young adults use news and location-based services on their smartphones, in addition to examining how many news organizations offer mobile news apps with geo-location features. Based on the survey findings, young adults are consuming news on their smartphones. Furthermore, there is a high use of location-based services by smartphone consumers, but news organizations are only using geo-location features in their mobile apps for traffic and weather. This study highlights that a gap exists between what news consumers, particularly young adults, are doing and using on their smartphones and what news organizations are able to provide.

Weiss, Amy Schmitz. (2013). Exploring News Apps and Location-Based Services on the Smartphone. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 90(3), 435-456. doi: 10.1177/1077699013493788

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Mobile News Adoption among Young Adults: Examining the Roles of Perceptions, News Consumption, and Media Usage

Using the frameworks of innovation diffusion and technology acceptance model, this study examines the predictors of mobile news consumption among young adults. The results show that the perceived relative advantage (especially content), utility, and ease of use of mobile news are positively related to its adoption. The young adults’ news consumption patterns and preferences, as well as media usage, all play a role in the adoption of mobile news. This study also validates the importance of examining the adoption outcome from multiple perspectives.

Chan-Olmsted, Sylvia, Rim, Hyejoon, & Zerba, Amy. (2013). Mobile News Adoption among Young Adults: Examining the Roles of Perceptions, News Consumption, and Media Usage. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 90(1), 126-147. doi: 10.1177/1077699012468742

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Are News Media Substitutes? Gratifications, Contents, and Uses. Journal of Media Economics

Internet is generally expected to have one of two effects on traditional news media: It displaces them, or it forces them into distinct market niches. A shared assumption underlying both expectations is that news media displacement, or substitution, is a function of the degree to which news media are functional equivalents. This article explores this assumption from a niche theoretical perspective, using survey data from 2 student samples as illustrative cases. Findings indicate that, for these students, news media substitution does not depend on functional equivalence of media in providing gratifications and gratification opportunities or types of content. Post hoc analyses suggest instead that, for this particular audience, media use depends on habit and media accessibility. Follow-up studies should further investigate these relations for representative samples.

van der Wurff, Richard. (2011). Are News Media Substitutes? Gratifications, Contents, and Uses. Journal of Media Economics, 24(3), 139-157. doi: 10.1080/08997764.2011.601974

  • Mark Henderson

    Damon,
    Great stuff. After reading this and considering the comparative strength of print my question is this: Does this really come down to needs vs. wants?
    Consider the demographics of print subscribers and median length of print subscriptions. These, I think speak to habits (needs), no?
    Breaking through the need/want dynamic speaks to engagement and the need for niche content (narrow and deep rather than wide and shallow), either of those creating circumstances more favorable for payment.
    What do you think?
    Mark

    • dkiesow

      Mark –

      The habits vs needs balance is up for academic debate. Some of the theory focuses on the fact that people look to conserve effort and fall into habit that directs much of their media consumption. But arguably, that habit is only created when original needs are met and reinforced. That takes us back to square one – what is the value to the reader.

      Definitely, some of the strength of newsprint is inertia from 50 years of habit. But there is obviously underlying value that goes beyond that. So, are we re-creating enough of that value in digital to attract new readers, and create new habits against the competition posed be Facebook et al.

      • Mark Henderson

        Damon,
        OK, fair enough, but let’s play that out.
        The current model splits the mass audience based on individual preferences. In other words, everyone’s doing the same thing differently with the hope they attract the largest audience possible. In this regard, “legacy” media sites are no different than social sites.
        I would contend, then, that this argues for a solution along the lines of an Flipboard, Currents, Ongo model, something that has the ability to aggregate “legacy” and social media with a neat UX and also allows for a pay component or confederated subscriptions.

        • dkiesow

          I am not arguing one content approach vs another specifically. But yes, aggregation is huge and we should be doing more of it. That falls under convenience/efficiency. But, depth of niche or geographic coverage is also valuable. What I think we are missing is how to bring the correct UX, context and availability to digital that we do/did for print.

          • Mark Henderson

            I agree completely.
            Then the question is what value can be assigned to that. I contend, for reasons above, we have to concede there’s lesser value, or pricing power, in digital than print. The flipside, obviously, is we have the potential for far greater reach.

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